WASHINGTON, D.C. – White House press secretary Josh Earnest said recently that the Obama administration is in the “final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly” close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Our home states of Kansas and South Carolina are being considered as potential sites for housing the enemy combatants transferred from Guantanamo. Defense Department officials visited Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on Aug. 14 and will be visiting the Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C., on Monday to survey the facilities.
When Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, he announced that Guantanamo would be closed in the first year of his presidency. This was a political promise with little regard for recidivism rates, the continuing conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, and most important, America’s national security. So it is fortunate that the deadline was not met.
But throughout his presidency, Mr. Obama has prioritized personal legacy over the safety and security of the nation—and he is still pursuing an effort to move the terrorists at Guantanamo into our backyards.
The notion that Kansas, South Carolina or any other state would be an ideal home for terrorist detainees is preposterous. Transferring these prisoners to the mainland puts the well-being of states in danger, posing security risks to the public and wasting taxpayer dollars. The detention facilities at Guantanamo are doing a fantastic job of holding these terrorists.
Closing Guantanamo Bay isn’t taking the fight to the enemy; it’s bringing it home. Of serious concern is that there is no way to control who the terrorists would attract to our communities. We should be doing everything possible to destroy homegrown terrorism, not encouraging it.
Fort Leavenworth is on the Missouri River, adjacent to a public railroad, about 16 miles from Kansas City International Airport, in the middle of communities Leavenworth and Lansing, surrounded by schools and homes. Fort Leavenworth trains the best and brightest through the Army University, at the Command and General Staff College.
Everyone in the vicinity would live with a target on their back if some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world were housed among them. Millions of taxpayer dollars would need to be spent to retrofit the barracks—and acquire perhaps 2,000 acres of land around them by eminent domain for a security perimeter—to house these prisoners.
Charleston’s Naval Consolidated Brig was built in the late 1980s as a medium-security military prison for prisoners serving sentences of 10 years or less. It is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, less than a mile from a school, close to the Port of Charleston, roughly five miles from the Charleston International Airport, and surrounded by military facilities.
It is also a short distance from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, or SPAWAR, Systems Center Atlantic, and the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command. Both of these strategic military installations are vital to national defense and military readiness and would further raise the profile of the area as a target for terrorism.
Housing some of the world’s most dangerous prisoners next to Charleston, a city repeatedly named the No. 1 tourist destination in the U.S. by readers of Conde Nast Traveler, would be grossly irresponsible.
Congress has consistently stopped the president from closing Guantanamo by prohibiting funds from being used to transfer or release detainees into the U.S. Changing this policy would be beyond foolish. As the threat of Islamic State grows, now is not the time to consider transferring detainees to U.S. soil and putting America’s security at even greater risk.
We will not let the president ignore the realities of terrorism. We will do everything in our power, use every tool in the Senate, to ensure that our communities—the churches, schools, playgrounds and military installations—are kept safe while terrorists remain where they belong: locked up at Guantanamo Bay.